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Hillcrest's Formerly Unchurched
by Tom Goodman
May 22, 2009

What does it take to reach unchurched people, and how are we doing in that effort?

To find out, I invited a few formerly unchurched people for pie and coffee at my house a few weeks ago.  One was a 20-something woman who had no connection with any church before starting to attend ours about three years ago.  Another was a young professional who was raised in another religion before placing her faith in Christ after personal Bible study in her university years.  Hillcrest has been the first church experience she's ever had.  In attendance was a median-aged couple who started attending Hillcrest after being out of church for 30 years, having dropped out in high school.  I also had a retired lawyer who had connected to Hillcrest after raising his family out of church for the last 40 years.  One middle-aged single and a senior adult couple were reached by our telephone campaign after no church participation in 40 years.

Each of these persons has been at Hillcrest almost every Sunday since they've begun to attend 2-4 years ago.  They have made their profession of faith here or they have renewed their love and loyalty to Jesus after years of little spiritual growth.

The reason I wanted to visit with them was to simply find out what "clicked" for them at Hillcrest after years without a commitment to Christ and to a church.  Here are some of my conclusions from the meeting, in no particular order of importance.

First, I'm grateful for the "Connection Campaign" that Herb Ingram led the last two years in the Fall.  God clearly used the Campaign to reach into the lives of several unconnected people.

Second, the Anchor Course has played a key role in the lives of the formerly unchurched.  The eight-week study with me has given people a chance to ask their questions about Christianity and to gain more confidence about Christian basics.

Third, the formerly unchurched find Hillcrest to be a very welcoming church.  All who visited with me at my house had stories to tell about those who befriended them, called them, remembered their names on subsequent visits to the church, and invited them to activities outside the church program.  Keep up the good work!

Fourth, the formerly unchurched feel that Hillcrest really is a place where people can "find and follow Jesus together."  Before walking into Hillcrest, they assumed they would be the only ones who were new to the place, unfamiliar with the Bible, or plagued with personal problems.  Instead, they quickly found others who, like them, were newcomers still learning their way around Hillcrest.  They found others who, like them, were willing to admit what they didn't know about the Bible.  And they found others who, like them, confessed the heartbreak of personal problems.  In other words, the formerly unchurched appreciated the level of honesty they found here.

Fifth, as I talked with the formerly unchurched I was reminded again that God is in charge of this process of salvation and spiritual growth!  Of course, we should never stop examining our church's ministry to ensure we're as welcoming to those who need to find Jesus as we are to those who are already following him.  Still, God cares more for the lost and unchurched around us than we ever could, and he is the one awakening them to his glory and grace -- not us.  We simply need to make ourselves available as instruments in his hand as he does his sovereign work in lives around us.

So, as you gather with your Hillcrest Family this Sunday, keep in mind how many unchurched people that God has turned into formerly unchurched people through the work of Hillcrest.  And keep praying for that work to continue!


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